Browsing "Animal Law"

NAIA at NCSL

For more than a decade, we have maintained a presence at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). NAIA board members attend to the booth, conversations are had, connections are made, and perceptions are changed. This year, the event was held in Boston, Massachusetts.

From left: NAIA Board members Patte Klecan, Dr. Cindy Buckmaster, Nancy Fisk.

Why is this event important? Because the entire conversation surrounding human-animal interaction — policy positions, philosophical perspectives, even the language we use — has long been dominated by the ideology of the animal rights movement. Those of us who live, love, and work with animals who have hands-on experience and more mainstream positions on animal welfare and conservation issues are often drowned out. So this event gives us an opportunity to share our perspective and let legislators know that there are organizations out there who not only care deeply about animals, but also the human-animal bond, and positive outcomes that are driven by data. If you work with animals, we are here for you.

Even after all these years, it never ceases to amuse us how curious passersby will breathe a sigh of relief after a conversation or reading a brochure. “Oh, sorry. I was worried you were one of those groups.”

No. No we are not.


 

Oh, and speaking of making new friends…

 

May 1, 2017 - Animal Law    3 Comments

Major Victory in New Jersey!

It has been an incredibly long and arduous fight, but we are proud to announce that the bill formerly known as New Jersey SB 63 pertaining to dog breeding and sourcing has finally been conditionally vetoed! Kudos and huge thanks to NAIA Board Members Barbara Reichman and Julian Prager for their hard work and incredible commitment to this fight, combined with all of YOU who took the time to make your voices heard. Thanks to Governor Chris Christie and his staff for listening to our concerns and doing the research necessary to understand the complexity of the issues and make the appropriate changes. As of May 1, Governor Christie has returned the bill to the legislature with the changes we and the rest of the stakeholders had requested.

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New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie

The bill has taken a long and winding road with many twists and turns, beginning as legislation to force pet stores to source only from shelters and rescues then dropping that requirement (thanks in large part to our input) and morphing into a bill that would treat hobby breeders as commercial breeders. The bill has gone through several different forms and bill numbers, the last version that was presented to the Governor being S3041. It was a much better version than what we started with but was still damaging and would still treat small hobby breeders as pet dealers and all the unrealistic requirements that would entail.

We at NAIA Trust have been working hard to unravel the confusion and keep you abreast to help you efficiently take action. NAIA Board Members Barbara Reichman and Julian Prager have worked directly with legislators throughout this entire process, right up to the Governor’s office. They have devoted countless hours drafting proposed amendments and positions, developing relationships, and communicating our concerns to protect breeders and owners. Between their work and the flood of calls to the Governor’s desk, we have finally succeeded!

Gov. Christie agreed with us in his conditional veto of the bill; he stated that while he commended the efforts to protect New Jersey pet purchasers, aspects of the bill went too far. “The bill would also have the unintended consequence of restricting consumer access to pets, even from responsible breeders,” stated Gov. Christie in his veto. He is definitely a friend to responsible dog breeders; he GETS it. He also made sure to get rid of all of the awful animal rights propaganda that was included in the recitals and findings to the bill. Some of the important changes he has made include:

  • Both the definition of “breeder” and “pet dealer” were changed to only apply to USDA licensed breeders, so in essence pet shops would be required to purchase from USDA licensed breeders (as they are now), and small at-home breeders are left out of the unrealistic requirements as we wanted.
  • The attempt to regulate out of state pet sellers has been removed.
  • The inclusion of anyone selling more than 10 dogs or cats in the state of New Jersey has been removed from the definition of pet dealers.
  • The bill previously prohibited pet shops from obtaining animals from breeders that had three or more USDA citations; this was replaced with “3 or more separate, final, and conclusive orders for violations.”

So, what happens next?

While this conditional veto represents a major battle won, the war is not over yet. The veto still has to go back to the legislature. The legislature can either accept the veto, do nothing (which means it will die), or they can attempt to override it. An override would require 27 votes in the Senate, and that never happened under 8 years of Gov. Christie.

Because the conditional veto will go back to the legislature, we will still need your support and help to ensure that Gov. Christie’s partial veto is accepted. Simply make sure you are signed up to follow NAIA Trust and will receive our alerts. Following NAIA Trust is easy and will keep you up-to-date on legislative issues like this one that affect you and your animals. If you haven’t signed up for NAIA Trust yet, you are missing out. We have made many improvements to our site to make it easier to understand the issues and taking action is as easy is clicking a button if you make sure to check “remember me” when you sign up for our alerts. Sign up here with NAIA Trust today to be a part of future victories like this momentous one in New Jersey!

 

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Congratulations to USARK!

NAIA  and NAIA Trust are proud to announce a HUGE legal victory by one of our friends in the fight for animal owners’ rights. On April 7, 2017, the US Court of Appeals, DC District, ruled in favor of United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) over the US Fish and Wildlife Service, HSUS, and the Center for Biological Diversity. HSUS intervened in the case filed by USARK, thinking they could crush the little guy and got much more than they bargained for.

USARK advocates for the practice of responsible herpetoculture: the husbandry of reptiles & amphibians for conservation projects, zoos, museums, research facilities, education, and pets. The members practice conservation through captive breeding and work hard to preserve the right to do so.

Interpretation of a Federal law called the Lacey Act was the main dispute in this case. In 2013, USARK challenged a 2012 rule by the US Fish and Wildlife Service that designated 4 species of snakes as injurious under the Lacey Act. Four more species were added by a rule change in 2015, including the reticulated python and the green anaconda, and USARK amended their case. HSUS and Center for Biological Diversity began as only filing amicus briefs, which is basically interjecting an opinion but not actually participating as a party to the case. They later became intervening parties in 2015.

Green Anaconda

Green Anaconda

The Lacey Act is a longstanding Federal law that was enacted in 1900, with the principal “object and purpose” to “regulate the introduction of American or foreign birds or animals into localities where they have not heretofore existed.” The Act created a criminal prohibition against importation into the US of certain species, and the empowerment to declare species injurious and add them to regulation as needed. In 1960, the criminalization section was codified and clarified, but as too often happens in the law, was unintentionally made clear as mud.

The precise wording in the code prohibits “any shipment between the continental United States, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any possession of the United States.” This small sentence and its interpretation was the entire issue here. FWS recently decided to interpret the sentence to bar shipments not only from other countries into the listed locales and between the listed locales, but also between the 49 continental US states. HSUS and CBD supported this interpretation, USARK disagreed.

Injunctive relief was awarded by the D.C. District Court to USARK and its members in May 2015, which FWS, HSUS and CBD then challenged through appeal. The Federal Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court decision.

The Court used a plain language interpretation to come to their decision. The Court found that the use of the word “between” introduced the list with a one-to-one relationship between the listed items. It does not speak to the relationships within any listed objects, but prohibits one-to-one within the list. The court gave the example of there being no games between the NFL teams, MLB teams, and NBA teams. While there will not be football v baseball games or baseball v basketball games, there will be games between football teams themselves and so on.

The same goes for shipment under the Lacey Act—it does not speak to shipment WITHIN one of the listed jurisdictions but BETWEEN only the listed jurisdictions, such as between Hawaii and the continental US states. If there had been intent for the law to mean interstate, there would have been no need to reference Hawaii separate from the continental US. Not only did the court interpret the plain language, but looked to the history of the Lacey Act overall and found that to also be consistent with the plain language interpretation as well. The Lacey Act originally addressed only foreign species but as the country and travel evolved, limited it by land space further: barring shipments from other countries and between islands to the continental US.

Although this ruling has withheld entry of final judgment while the time lapses for the FWS, HSUS, and/or CBD to file an appeal, the likelihood of one being granted to even hear the case much less win on the merits is quite low. There are some side issues to be clarified still under this preliminary injunction, but bottom line is that this was a major victory for USARK. The Court (consisting of a three-judge panel) ruled unanimously in their favor. The years of hard work, perseverance, and let’s be honest, the funding it takes to fight a case of this magnitude for this long, has been well worth it. We congratulate USARK on a very hard earned and momentous victory!

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A Little More on Service Dogs…

On Friday, we mentioned that Wyoming is considering a bill to make misrepresenting a service animal a misdemeanor, a law that is no doubt simple common sense for many. Then, like clockwork, the story of Patsy Hayes and her latex-detection dog, Andromeda popped up the next day. Patsy Hayes is severely allergic to latex, and Andromeda lets her know latex is nearby, in order to steer clear of it. This story is a timely reminder of the value of service dogs, and of the varied, perhaps unexpected services they can perform.

The word “allergy” conjures up images of swollen eyes, dripping noses, maybe a rash — and in most cases, that is the extent of an allergic reaction. But anaphylaxis, Patsy’s reaction to latex, is far more severe: it can be life-threatening and brought on by extremely low levels of exposure.

Living with severe allergies can be extremely life-limiting, but a detection dog can help to open doors:

Years of training dogs to detect explosives and narcotics for the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies led Gavin to branch out in 2009 and focus on teaching dogs to detect an array of compounds — including nuts, milk, wheat, eggs and soy — that create serious allergic reactions in her clients.

Some of the afflicted, she said, rarely left their homes, didn’t go to school or movies, parks or churches — or even visit friends — out of fear of an allergy attack.

“But after getting a dog,” Gavin said, “they would start going places.”

Not the service dog of yesteryear, but a valuable job indeed!

cciServiceDog

Service Dog! Canine Companions for Independence

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Feb 17, 2017 - Animal Law    No Comments

Misrepresenting Pets as Service Animals Could Become Misdemeanor in WY

In Cheyenne, Wyoming, misrepresenting a pet as a service animal may become a misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $750.

For some, issues like this inevitably evoke sarcastic responses: “Government is focusing on fake service animals now? So this must mean we’ve solved unemployment, industrial pollution, and homelessness, right? Har har har.”

But we are glad to see this issue addressed. Pets posing as service animals de-legitimizes real service animals and their work, and that comes with real consequences. Consequences for the public, for businesses, for tenants and landlords, and most importantly, for these wonderful animals and the people who depend on them their well-being and independence.

 

Good chance this dog is a great pet. Almost zero chance this dog is a service animal.

Good chance this dog is a great pet. Near certain chance this dog is not a service animal.

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Dec 20, 2016 - Animal Law    No Comments

Judge Refuses to View Pet Dispute as Child Custody Case

While acknowledging that dogs are treated as members of the family, a Saskatoon (Canada) Judge has emphatically refused to view a divorcing couple’s dispute about pet ownership as a child custody case.

The judge said this sort of case should not be chewing up precious court time “in a justice system that is incredibly busy, where delay has virtually become systemic.”

“To consume scarce judicial resources with this matter is wasteful. In my view such applications should be discouraged,” he added.

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Don’t waste my time.

The judge also wisely got in front of the old “Dogs are property under the law, viewed just like an old table or can opener!” canard by pointing out that we are most certainly not legally entitled to treat them (or other pets) in a cruel or neglectful manner.

Of course we all love our pets and consider them part of the family, but from a legal standpoint, we couldn’t agree more with the judge that claims like this are a waste of time, talent, and resources.

 

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Jun 29, 2016 - Animal Law    1 Comment

NAIA Trust Expands with Hire of Animal Enthusiast Attorney

NAIA Trust is excited to announce the addition of Sara Chisnell as the Legislative Director. Ms. Chisnell is a Michigan based attorney with an extensive background in animal law. Sara’s role with NAIA Trust will focus on expanding state and federal outreach by promoting reasonable laws, policies and regulations to protect animals and the people who care for them.

SaraChisnellSara has successfully petitioned for moderate animal-related laws at a grassroots and national level. She was previously involved with NAIA through National Conferences and various legislative issues where she connected with NAIA President, Patti Strand. “One of Sarah’s greatest assets is that she’s an animal person. She’s heavily involved in the animal world in all aspects of her life. This is an enormous strength when working with animal related legislation,” Patti says of Sara.

Sara graduated from Otterbein College with a BA in Equine Science. She then went on to Michigan State University College of Law, where she focused on animal law.  Sara spent nine years with the United Kennel Club (UKC) focusing on canine legislation. She also served as in-house counsel and the representative for pointing breeds. Ms. Chisnell is active in the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association, and regularly trains and tests her German Shorthaired Pointers in Hunting Retriever Club. She is passionate about canine performance sport, in particular dock diving. She also trains young horses in basic dressage for a Warmblood breeder.

Sara commented on her new role saying, “I’m very excited for this opportunity to use my education and background to help NAIA in its quest to promote animal welfare, while also protecting the rights and interests of those whose livelihoods are animals. The human-animal bond is a very important and primary part of my life; preserving it is essential. I consider myself quite lucky to have found a position so intricately entwined with my life’s passion of both dogs and horses.”

NAIA Trust is a 501(c) (4) organization. The Mission of NAIA Trust is to promote the welfare of animals, strengthen the human-animal bond and safeguard the rights of responsible animal owners, enthusiasts and professionals through education, legislation and the courts.

Apr 21, 2015 - Animal Law    2 Comments

Uber accused of refusing to transport service animals

A federal judge told the ridesharing company Uber that it must defend against a discrimination lawsuit after its drivers were accused of refusing to transport service animals.

Some of the accusations paint an extremely troubling picture:

In one instance, the lawsuit states, two blind passengers with service animals were met with cursing and shouts of “no dogs” from an Uber driver who refused to admit them. Another time, a driver allegedly stashed a blind woman’s dog in the trunk then ignored her pleas to pull over once she’d realized what had happened.

Talk about callous disregard…  if allegations are proven true, it will take a long time to remove those stains from the company.

Uber has 14 days to respond. The Justice Department has already weighed in on this issue, and stated:

“The ADA applies to private entities that are primarily engaged in providing transportation services,” even if a company is not a public accommodation, said the filing by Justice Department lawyers and U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s office.

We strongly support service animals and the people who need them at NAIA, and will be keeping a close eye on this case.

Apr 2, 2015 - Animal Law    No Comments

“Fake Service Dog Bill” Advances

In Florida on Monday, a “Fake service dog bill” advanced in the senate.

Much of this bill is just a restatement of the Americans with Disabilities act, but it adds two criminal offenses:

The bill would make interfering with the disabled and their service animals a second-degree misdemeanor, carrying penalties of up to 60 days in jail, up to $500 in fines and 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves people with disabilities or another entity, at the discretion of a judge.

Under the bill, the same crime and penalties would apply to pet owners who lie about having a disability and falsely claim that their pet is a service animal.

While NAIA has not taken an official position on the bill, we do laud its goals.

With more service animals assisting people with invisible disabilities than ever before, and a growing number of pet owners who feel entitled to bring their companions anywhere and everywhere (and with easy access to vests, harnesses, and other paraphernalia that make their pets look like service animals), it is easy to see why there have been so many recent collisions at this intersection.

But even if it is easy to understand, there is no good reason to harangue somebody with a service animal… just as there is no excuse for falsely declaring your pet a service animal. While people with fake service dogs aren’t acting out of malice, and may not think they are doing anything wrong, their actions hurt the very people who most need the calm, reliable assistance these amazing animals provide.

ExeterBob

 

May 15, 2014 - Animal Law, Animal Rights    2 Comments

HSUS Coughs Up $15.75 Million, Settles Racketeering Suit

Great news today: HSUS and several co-defendants have paid Feld Entertainment $15.75 million for their involvement in a “frivolous,” “vexatious,” “groundless and unreasonable” case brought against Feld Entertainment and to settle the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case brought against them. (Couldn’t have happened to a nicer group of conflict fundraising organizations!)

This is the second settlement Feld Entertainment has received from the same case; in 2012, Feld received $9.3 million from the ASPCA.

The case in question claimed that Feld was abusing elephants in violation of the Endangered Species Act, and was accompanied by numerous fundraising campaigns viciously maligning the circus. “Claimed” being the all-important word here; while the case created great publicity for the animal rights organizations involved, it all fell apart when the star witness turned out to be an “essentially paid plaintiff” who had received $190,000 from animal rights organizations. Oops!

This is what happens when conflict fundraisers play their unethical, ends-justify-the-means games against somebody who can and will fight back, rather than roll over, pay them off, and pray they go away. Let’s hope this becomes a larger trend. Congratulations to Feld Entertainment for having the guts to see this through to the end, and winning a battle for everybody who works with animals!

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